KANSAS CITY -- Extra innings haven't been kind to the Royals this season, and Friday night proved no different.
Jonathan Broxton came on in the 11th and gave up a leadoff double to Joe Mauer, who scored the decisive run on Josh Willingham's single, as the Twins earned a 2-1 victory in the series opener at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals fell to 2-5 on the season in extra-inning contests. In addition, the Royals are now 4-14 in their last 18 games dating to June 30. A loss on Saturday would drop Kansas City below Minnesota into last place in the American League Central.
"It's not fun losing, especially the way we've lost some extra-inning games -- last Friday night [against the White Sox], this Friday night," said right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who couldn't grip the ball while attempting to load up a throw to the plate on Willingham's single.
"Everybody's got to do a better job of doing what they do. It starts with me and goes on down. Everybody's got to do a better job for us to start winning ballgames. We're definitely better than this."
Yuniesky Betancourt tied the game at 1 with a double that scored Eric Hosmer in the seventh inning of a game that was a tight pitchers' duel between Kansas City's Luke Hochevar and Minnesota's Nick Blackburn.
Not having pitched since last Saturday, Broxton entered in the top of the 11th and Mauer promptly doubled down the left-field line. Willingham followed with a single through the right side of the infield. Mauer, who finished 3-for-4 on the night, scored uncontested.
The Royals threatened in their half thanks to the aggressive play of Alcides Escobar, who hustled for a leadoff double against Twins reliever Glen Perkins. Escobar then tagged from second and made it to third safely -- after misreading the ball and going halfway before having to go back and tag -- on a lineout to right field by Billy Butler.
With the infield in, Mike Moustakas grounded to second baseman Alexi Casilla, who threw home to nab Escobar and preserve the lead. Perkins retired Jarrod Dyson on another grounder to Casilla to end the game and pick up his fifth save. Broxton took his second loss of the year.
"In that situation, you're trying to get a ball in the air, but [Moustakas is] facing a tough left-handed closer," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We're gambling there that Moose can hit it two steps to anybody's right or left. We lost the gamble when he hit it right at him. If it's two steps either way, Esky scores. With Dyson coming up next, we thought it was worth the gamble.
"We're in an extra-inning game, and we're trying to find a way to score runs. It was one of those nights where we were really struggling offensively to put runs on the board. In these types of games, you've got to push the envelope a little bit to put yourself in scoring position and try to pick up that run."
The game reached the 11th thanks to some impressive pitching by Royals reliever Greg Holland.
Darin Mastroianni led off the 10th with a triple into the right-field corner. With the infield in, Holland then got Casilla on a groundout before striking out Ben Revere and Jamey Carroll to end the threat.
"It's not the situation you want to be in, but at that point you've just try to make one pitch at a time, take your chances on getting a groundball at someone. Luckily enough I did and gave us a chance in the bottom half," Holland said.
Hochevar continued his recent string of solid starts -- allowing one run on five hits, while striking out six in seven innings. His lone mistake came in the top of the second inning, when Mastroianni belted a 3-1 offering into the left-field seats for an early 1-0 lead.
"I'm just real encouraged with the way that he threw the ball tonight," Yost said. "He mixed in his curveball extremely well. It was a very good pitch for him. He got some big outs with a couple of sliders, located his fastball really well. I'm just real encouraged he could go seven innings as well as he pitched."
Hochevar became the second straight Kansas City starter to make it to the seventh inning, a relatively notable feat given the rotation struggles earlier in the week.
"That's been the biggest thing that I've been disappointed with myself is not getting deep into games. I expect to get deep in a game," Hochevar said. "I think the last time I pitched we played 14 innings [against the White Sox on July 14], and that's when you really want to give the team some length and do what you can to help."
Blackburn silenced the Royals' offense for much of the evening, allowing one run in 6 2/3 innings. The right-hander was pitching in his first big league game since being optioned to Triple-A Rochester on July 4.
"I'll say this, he got ahead with strike one all night tonight and then kind of went about his business after that," Francoeur said. "He tended to hit a lot of spots tonight that I feel like, last time we faced him, he left some over the plate. I thought he pitched pretty well tonight."
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.